Should L.A. Get Rid of the 710?

The region could improve livability by blowing up some concrete

Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has discussed fixing the 710 freeway, which originates in Long Beach and abruptly ends in Valley Boulevard in Alhambra. Metro is currently considering a 4.5-mile tunnel underneath the area that would connect the 710 to the more sensible terminus of the 210 in Pasadena. The expensive proposal is mostly a non-starter for Pasadena, South Pasadena, and northeast L.A. locals.

The nonprofit organization Congress for the New Urbanism has a different idea—tear down the short Alhambra stub north of the 10 freeway and replace it with a more people-friendly surface road. By doing that, the 710 would end at the 10, instead of an arbitrary street not adjacent to any major attraction.

“Research has shown that removing in-city freeways makes residents healthier, strengthens local economies, opens up land for parks, creates opportunities for development, and can even ease local traffic problems,” former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist—who oversaw the removal of an elevated freeway in his city—told the Temple City Tribune.

The 710 stub runs parallel to California State University, Los Angeles, though it doesn’t end at the campus. One can imagine a much better use of space abutting one of our local universities—park? stadium? rail station? mixed-use development?—rather than a dirty freeway that spills traffic out onto blighted, but potential-laden, Valley Blvd. Sure, the tunnel option could include a public transit option, like a light rail or bus rapid transit line, but it will also attract about 40,000 new cars to the area that will not stop and patronize local businesses. Even if nothing but a street replaces the freeway stub, cars driving through a new surface road, complete with bike lanes and wider sidewalks, could bring new customers to local businesses.

Another argument for tear-down is knitting together the eastern environs of L.A., which are bisected by numerous freeways; poor Boyle Heights has the 101, 10, 60, and 5 tearing through it. Nearby Alhambra is bisected by the 10 and the stabbed by the 710 stub. There’s a reason why L.A.’s poorer environs (South L.A., Boyle Heights) have concrete scars running through them and wealthier areas (Beverly Hills, West Hollywood) do not. Bulldozing this stub would bring a tiny bit of environmental justice to East L.A.